It seems like every year we lose a well-known celebrity figure to a drug or toxic cocktail related untimely death. It seems that the shock of unnecessary losses would have a chilling impact on the bad choices made by other stars, yet the death toll of drug-related fatalities continues to climb. This sample essay explores the celebrity deaths and tragic events that proceeded them.
The drug induced death of Prince
The recent death of Prince may be one of the most surprising of all, because it seemed that Prince had escaped what his contemporaries had not – drugs. His autopsy complete, Prince’s cause of death has not been released (“Autopsy Complete”). Authorities are waiting for toxicology results. Though, investigation into his death has many speculating that his death was related, at a minimum, to painkillers (“Authorities are Focusing”). An attorney for his siblings stated that the former musician had a long term dependence on the opioid painkiller Percocet and cocaine. It has been reported that Prince’s half-brother, Duane Nelson, who died in 2013, had long found straw buyers to obtain various prescriptions for Prince.
Reports since Prince’s death suggest that efforts were being made to get help for the musical impresario (Miller). A well-known opioid addiction treatment doctor had just been called to help Prince stop taking the painkillers. In fact, the California doctor’s son, Andrew Kornfeld, was on site at Prince’s Paisley Park home and studio in Minnesota, at the time of his death, leading to speculation that Kornfeld, or a local doctor who was also there, may have had something to do with the musician’s death (Kimble). Authorities indicate that Kornfeld had the anti-opioid medication Suboxone, a buprenorphine, in his back pack while in Prince’s home. In Minnesota, the drug is considered to be a Schedule III controlled substance, so Kornfeld may be subject to criminal drug charges.
The younger Kornfeld is likely hoping that Minnesota’s Good Samaritan Law will protect him, but that law does not necessarily cover the possession of a Schedule III substance without a prescription. State criminal charges are not all Kornfeld might face, as he transported the drug over state lines as well, which invokes the jurisdiction of federal interstate drug issues. Kornfeld’s life-saving intentions may work to his advantage, but the actual outcome is not clear, particularly since Prince lived in an urban area where access to hospitals and qualified doctors is prevalent (Kimble). The U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency is involved in the investigation since painkillers were found on Prince at the time of his death, and it has been reported that his plane was forced to land, last week, due to what was speculated as a drug overdose in-flight. It was hoped that Prince would be placed in a long-term care drug facility with 24-hour support.
Corey Monteith: Death of a rising star
On July 13, 2013, Corey Monteith, who played Finn Hudson, on the Fox 5 musical television show Glee, died of a heroin and alcohol overdose (Buckland and Richards). Along with his other amazing contemporaries, he spread joy, love and happiness to millions of adoring Gleeks. In March, Monteith was forced into a drug rehabilitation program as a result of an intervention organized by show co-creator Ryan Murphy (“Ryan Murphy”). The intervention occurred on the Paramount Studios lot, where Corey agreed to leave immediately with doctors who were on location.
The coroner’s report indicates that Monteith was found in a room strewn with drug needles and champagne bottles (Buckland and Richards). His death was due to intravenous heroin use and alcohol and was labeled accidental. But when you use ingest heroin into your arms and top it off with alcohol is that death actually accidental? The coroner’s report continued that after undergoing rehabilitation, resuming previous drug concentration levels is toxic and can often be fatal. Monteith had struggled with drug abuse in his high school years and had entered rehab before (Buckland and Richards).
Whitney Houston: A tragic end to a tragic life
Whitney Houston splashed on to the music scene a fresh face ingénue. Under the guidance of her mentor Clive Davis, it looked as though she could do no wrong. Between the years 1985 and 1992, Houston hit global record sales of over $86 million (“Whitney Houston”). Yet life does not always turn out the way that you expect it to, and despite having a Grammy Award winning mother, superstar hit-maker cousin, Dionne Warwick, and a superstar maker in Davis, her life went left not too long after marrying Bobby Brown, former member of the boy group New Edition. Houston’s death ended in the same way she lived her life.
Whitney had long been suspected of using drugs, in fact, in her candid interview with former ABC News Anchor, Diane Sawyer, Houston looked like she was on drugs during the program (Cragnale). She received worldwide denigration for her appearance and for responding that “crack is whack,” to Sawyer’s questions about her alleged drug use. Instead of simply responding, no I do not take drugs, or more specifically crack, or acknowledge that she did use it, Whitney responded:
“First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much for me to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight, OK? I don’t do crack. I don’t do that. Crack is wack” (Cragnale).
For most of her remaining admirers, it was not the beginning of the end, but more the end of the end. Whitney died in her bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the result of a mix of Xanax, other prescription drugs, and alcohol. It’s too bad she did not think that mixing a cocktail of drugs and alcohol was whack, as well. In a shocking epilogue, Whitney’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, died in eerily similar circumstances three years after Whitney’s death.
Amy Winehouse: Saying goodbye to a musical rarity
Amy Winehouse was an English singer and songwriter who offered an eclectic blend of many musical genres including jazz, R&B, soul and pop (“Amy Winehouse”). The singer won 5 Grammy Awards for her album Back to Black in 2006. She got her first break when a friend submitted her demo to his record label. She was signed to Island/Universal thereafter. Winehouse’s debut album, called Frank, won numerous awards and reached double platinum status giving her widespread acclaim. However, the singer began to develop a reputation for being not respecting her craft by showing up at performances drunk. She had a hard drug based relationship with boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil and often wound up having public fights and continuous drama (“Amy Winehouse”).
Her management company recommended that she enter drug addiction rehab, but she publicly declined and terminated their relationship (“Amy Winehouse”). Sadly, she wrote a song about the experience called Rehab, where she talked about how she refused to go to rehab, by singing the words, “No. No. No.,” a song which received international acclaim. Over the next years Winehouse and Fielder-Civil had several altercations and interactions with authorities over their drug use and volatile behavior, including arrests and imprisonment. In fact, she was not allowed to enter the United States to attend the Grammys in 2008. Her health and drug use saw her decline as her musical star rose. On July 23, 2011, the singer-songwriter died of alcohol poisoning, at the age of 27 (“Amy Winehouse”).
Michael Jackson: America’s royalty
Michael Jackson is arguably the most well known celebrity to recently loose his life to an untimely, drug abuse related death. Michael started his musical career as part of the Jackson 5 singing group, along with his brothers, Tito, Marlon, Jermaine and Jackie (“Michael Jackson”). Initially the group sang locally, but then released a record that garnered limited attention. The Jacksons started for numerous known singing acts and ultimately came to the attention of Berry Gordy. Gordy signed the group to the Motown label in 1969, and from that point, the popularity of the group took off. With Michael as the lead vocalist of the group. Michael started a solo career at 13 years-old while remaining part of the Jackson 5. Michael’s solo act and group act became very successful. Trouble started between Gordy and Joe Jackson, with the group leaving Motown in 1976, over creative control issues. The group signed with Epic Records and prospered as both singers and songwriters. Michael’s solo releases were very well received and helped to boost the sales of the group’s music as well (“Michael Jackson”).
The group began touring to support their success, but Michael remained behind, preferring to advance his solo career. Ultimately, Michael came out with the Thriller album, which became the highest selling album in history, remaining on the charts for over 80 weeks and staying at number 1 for 37 weeks straight (“Michael Jackson”). Michael continued to soar in the charts, including his memorable Super Bowl Halftime Show, but was soon accused of child molestation and had to go to trial. In the end, his reputation and finances were in ruins. His songs remained popular and tickets for one of his comeback shows sold out in just four hours. Michael continued on his comeback tour, but was experiencing sleep deprivation and started experimenting with medically induced sleeping measures. Jackson hired Dr.Conrad Murray as his personal physician, who provided the star with a toxic mix of propofol and benzodiazepine. Jackson died in his Holmby Hills home on June 25, 2009. VH1/VH1 Classic’s list of 100 Most Shocking Moments in Music ranked Jackson’s death as No. 1 (Borah).
Why have so many celebrities died from tragic events?
So the question is when is someone going to come to the realization that abusing drugs can and likely will kill you. Even worse is the mixing of drugs with other intoxicants and alcohol. There has to be a period of lucidity when the facts associated with illicit drug use can be communicated to the user. The responsibility, of course, lies with the drug user, but it also lies with the user’s handlers, family and friends to be vigilant about raising awareness and making concerted efforts to strike an intervention and get the addict treatment. In the case of Prince, his family said he was abusing drugs for 10 years, why were his associates just getting him help days before his death. What about starting to get him help nine years ago, if this was the case.
Also, how can anyone feel good about buying a song called Rehab, where the person singing the song is a known addict and is saying, “No. No. No.” How many millions of dollars did she make from that song which was basically scoffing at her own need to get drug rehabilitation and making her feel right in her drug induced stupor.
What is really so sad is the appropriateness of this inappropriate statement:
Insert Decedents Name Here: ________________, Insert Date of Death Here: ________________, Insert Drug Used to Kill Here: ________________.
This way we will be ready for the next fatality.
“Amy Winehouse.” Biography. A&E Television Networks, LLC. n. d. Web. 26 May 2016. http://www.biography.com/people/amy-winehouse-244469.
“Authorities Are Focusing on Painkillers in Prince’s Death Investigation.” Esquire. Hearst Communications, Inc. 26 April 2016. Web. 26 May 2016. http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/music/news/a44346/prince-cause-of-death-painkillers/.
“Autopsy Completed … Still No Cause of Death.” TMZ. EHM Productions, Inc. 22 April 2016. Web. 26 May 2016. http://www.tmz.com/2016/04/22/prince-autopsy-completed-cause-of-death/.
Borah, Parmita. “Michael Jackson: The Gloved One.” Music Malt. Music Malt – Music in Bangalore. 29 August 2011. Web. 26 May 2016. http://www.musicmalt.com/2011/08/michael-jackson-gloved-one.html
Buckland, Lucy and Richards, Chris. “Cory Monteith death: Room littered with champagne bottles and drugs needle.” Mirror. 3 October 2013. Web. 26 May 2016. http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/cory-monteith-death-room-littered-2333809.
Crugnale, James. “The Most Disturbing Moment From Whitney Houston’s 2002 Diane Sawyer Interview.” Mediaite. Mediaite, LLC. 13 February 2012. Web. 26 May 2016. http://www.mediaite.com/tv/the-most-disturbing-moment-from-whitney-houstons-2002-diane-sawyer-interview/.
Kimble, Lindsay. “Why the Pre-Med Student Who Found Prince Dead Could Face Drug Charges.” People. Time, Inc. 5 May 2016. Web. 26 May 2016. http://www.people.com/article/andrew-kornfeld-criminal-charges.
“Michael Jackson.” Biography. AE Television Networks, LLC. n. d. Web. 26 May 2016. http://www.biography.com/people/michael-jackson-38211#early-life.
Miller, Matt. “Prince Was One Day From Addiction Treatment Before He Died.” Esquire. Hearst Communications, Inc. 4 May 2016. Web. 26 May 2016. http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/music/news/a44560/prince-death-painkiller-doctor/.
“Ryan Murphy Talks Cory Monteith Intervention, Moving Forward With Lea Michele Grief Counselors On Glee Set .” Access Hollywood. NBCUniversal. 21 July 2013. Web. 26 May 2016. https://www.accesshollywood.com/articles/ryan-murphy-talks-cory-monteith-intervention-moving-forward-with-lea-michele-grief-counselors-on-glee-set-135298/.
“Whitney Houston.” Biography. A&E Television Networks, LLC. n. d. Web. 26 May 2016. http://www.biography.com/people/whitney-houston-9344818.
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